Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell brought an end to a two-week political showdown with a ruling that pleased Democrats and disappointed his fellow Republicans.
He ruled that broad redistricting changes Senate Republicans made on a House bill were "not germane and therefore are out of order," scuttling the GOP plan.
The controversy erupted on Inauguration Day when Richmond civil rights figure Sen. Henry Marsh traveled to Washington, D.C., for ceremonies there. While he was absent from the Senate, Republicans took advantage of their one day, 20-19 majority to amend a House bill with their own redistricting plan.
Angry Senate Democrats responded by threatening to block the governor's transportation funding plan. Yesterday, they made good on the promise, voting against the transportation bills before them.
With his decision today, Speaker Howell may have ended the standoff. He explained his ruling saying, "I think it's much more important for the integrity of this institution and for the integrity of the speaker's chair to have a consistent and narrowly drawn rule, and that's what I've done for 11 years."
Democrats called the speaker's decision an example of political courage.
"He's going to do what he thinks upholds the tradition of the General Assembly and the House of Delegates in particular," said Fairfax County Democratic Sen. Dick Saslaw. "Like a baseball umpire, he called it as he saw it and this time saw it in a direction favorable to us."
Senate Republicans say they are disappointed with the decision. Now Saslaw and other Senate Democrats say can begin to cooperate in reaching compromise on transportation funding.